The Honorable Jo Ann C. Stevenson (Ret.) died at home on Friday, September 9, 2022, after a long illness.
Judge Stevenson became the first woman to be appointed judge of any federal court in the Western District of Michigan when she was selected to serve on the bankruptcy court on December 23, 1987. She was Chief Judge of the court from March 2005 until she retired from the bench in October 2007, again, the first woman to serve as chief judge of any federal court in the Western District.
Judge Stevenson was born on October 2, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. She grew up in New Jersey and went on to be the first person in her family to attend college. She graduated from Rutgers University in 1964. It was not until 1976 that Judge Stevenson entered the Detroit College of Law, earning her J.D. in 1979.
After law school Judge Stevenson worked at the Michigan Court of Appeals in the prehearing division and as a law clerk to the Hon. Vincent J. Brennan. She went on to clerk for the Hon. Cornelia G. Kennedy at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She then worked in private practice until the Sixth Circuit authorized a third judgeship for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan and appointed her to the position.
During her time on the bench, Judge Stevenson taught bankruptcy reorganization and debtor/creditor relations at her law school alma mater. She actively supported and participated in a variety of educational conferences and groups including the Federal Bar Association Bankruptcy Seminar, the Grand Rapids Bar Association, the University of Michigan Institute of Public Policy Studies, and the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference. She also published articles in the American Bankruptcy Law Journal and Detroit College of Law Review.
Judge Stevenson is survived by her husband Marshall Grate, her son Kenneth (Allison) Stevenson, grandchildren Andrea, Campbell, Connor, Tucker and Riley Ann, as well as stepdaughters Keturah Finch and Rhodora Vennarucci.